The aim of the ECC Network is to assist consumers with cross-border complaints and promote the protection of consumer rights. Our mission is to empower consumers with valuable information about their rights and obligations so that they can shop confidently and take full advantage of the EU single market.
Sometimes, disputes happen between consumers and traders. Thus, in this context, both the consumer and trader must be well informed about any possible means of redress available to resolve their disputes effectively and low cost. When consumers seek and efficiently find redress, this will strengthen the trust in commercial entities adhering to such practice. Therefore, businesses need to facilitate redress to increase consumers’ trust in those commercial entities willing to implement consumer-friendly measures.
This section gives information about consumer redress mechanisms and what businesses are expected to do to facilitate communication between the parties involved.
The term Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) includes all means of redress to resolve a complaint/dispute without going to court. Typically, ADR mechanisms are quicker, with simplified procedures and cost less than going to court. The European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform is provided by the European Commission to make online shopping safer and fairer through access to quality dispute resolution tools.
Directive 2013/11/EU on Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (ADR Directive) provides the legal framework for ADR. It ensures that consumers have access to ADR for resolving their contractual disputes with traders in all economic sectors where it is applicable, irrespective of where the contract was concluded. Sectors excluded from the scope of this directive are services regarding health and higher education.
To be recognised as an ADR body, the organisation must comply with several criteria as laid down in the ADR Directive, namely:
Some ADR entities offer their services free of charge to consumers; however, other ADR entities charge a fee.
Regulation 524/2013 on Online Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (ODR Regulation) provides the set-up of the EU Online Dispute Resolution Platform. Through Article 5 of this Regulation, the European Commission developed the ODR Platform. It serves as a single point of entry for consumers and traders seeking the out-of-court resolution of disputes covered by the Regulation. The platform links the National ADR entities notified by the Member States. The ODR Regulation applies to the out-of-court resolution of disputes concerning contractual obligations stemming from online sales or services contracts between consumers and traders residents and established within the EU through the intervention of an ADR entity.
In line with Article 14 of the Regulation, traders established within the European Union engaging in online sales or services contracts shall provide an electronic link of the ODR Platform on their websites. This link has to be visible and easily accessible on the trader’s website.
The ODR platform lists all approved alternative dispute resolution bodies in Europe. European consumers who have experienced a problem concerning an online purchase can submit their problem via the email address provided by the online traders, allowing consumers to send the complaint directly through the platform.
If a trader is obliged to use an ADR to settle a dispute (e.g., required by contract or law), they must give additional information to consumers. Apart from providing the link to the ODR platform, online traders are required to inform the consumers about the existence of the ODR platform and the possibility of using the platform for resolving disputes.
After the complaint is submitted, the consumer and the trader are given 30 days to decide on an ADR body capable of dealing with the presented dispute. The chosen ADR body will receive a notification sent through the platform itself that a case has been submitted to the specific ADR entity.
Upon reviewing the case, the ADR entity can either accept the case, request additional information or refuse to deal with the case.
In case of refusal, an explanation must be provided to the consumer, informing him why the case was refused. On the other hand, if the ADR entity has accepted a case, a decision/recommendation must be issued within 90 days, except extending this period for complex cases.
The European Small Claims Procedure is mainly used for simple cases that do not involve large amounts of money or complicated issues covering claims up to €5000, excluding expenses, in any EU country except Denmark. This procedure applies to disputes having a cross-border element against traders, organisations, and customers within the EU.
The European Small Claims Procedure is an alternative to the national court procedures. The decision issued for this procedure is recognisable and enforceable in the EU country of the customer, organisation or other business. The only exception is inconsistencies with an existing judgement in another EU country, between the same parties.
- A lawyer is not necessary to start the European Small Claims Procedure
- The claim is solved in a shorter period
- The procedure is simplified, especially for cross-border claims
If you apply for this procedure, you will have to pay the court fees, and in some cases, you may also have to pay for the translation of the forms. These fees can also be reimbursed if your case is decided in your favour. More information can be obtained on the article related to ESCP.